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What Aussie Businesses Can Do Right Now To Save Our Planet

The saying “business as usual” doesn’t apply to today’s climate emergency.

It’s not business as usual for week-long protests to bring Australia’s cities to a halt, or for Australia’s children to have to skip school to get adults to pay attention to the climate crisis. It's not business as usual when millions of people across the world gather to stand in solidarity with young people to demand urgent action on the climate crisis.

This was a tipping point for the business community in its taking action on climate change. More than 3,100 businesses in Australia, New Zealand and across the globe signed up to the Not Business as Usual alliance to allow their employees to strike for the climate. United across time zones and cultures, with the adults joining the students, these rallies were the largest climate protests in history.

It's not business as usual when millions of people across the world gather to stand in solidarity with young people to demand urgent action on the climate crisis. (Image: Getty)

While nothing can replace the role of the government in saving our planet, as business leaders, we have enormous control in our ability to look inwards at the impact our own companies are having on the environment and put the wheels in motion today to reduce our effect on the planet.

To make it easier, here are what we’ve done and what you need to do into three easy steps.

1. UNDERSTAND YOUR BUSINESS'S CARBON FOOTPRINT

The first port of call is to understand what impact your business is currently having on the environment. There are a number of resources online to help you understand your business's carbon footprint. The easiest way is to start by googling “Company carbon footprint” and checking out the providers and information available. By measuring how much greenhouse gas emissions your business generates on an annual basis you can objectively see how future actions you take to decrease your footprint. In our businesses, we make this figure public to staff and shareholders regularly.

Businesses need to take practical steps to minimise their carbon footprints. (Image: Getty)
2. DEVELOP AN ACTION PLAN

Now that you understand your impact, develop an action plan. Get granular on what it is that your business can do, from looking at your supply chains right down to the transportation of goods, any packaging you use, office supplies and more. Nothing should be off the table. We have all taken the pledge to put everything under the microscope to make sure we are doing everything possible to reduce our impact on the planet. This has meant working with some of our suppliers to change their practices or materials, switching who we bank with and even wearing the cost of switching to a more expensive alternative in an effort to reduce the impact.

Our companies have taken this a step further and all become certified B-Corps. As B-Corps, we are held to a high standard to ensure our businesses are acting in the best interest of the planet and continually working to meet the benchmarks we’ve set around our emissions.

Look at your supply chains right down to the transportation of goods, any packaging you use, office supplies and more. Nothing should be off the table when developing your action plan. (Image: Getty)
3. MONITOR YOUR ACCOUNTABILITY

While you are setting these actions in motion, it is important to keep your business accountable and consistent with your monitoring and measuring your impact. For this, creating a reporting structure and a regular time to review the findings of your monitoring is imperative. Consider investing in an Environmental Management System (EMS). This system guides businesses in managing their impact, training staff, improving processes, reporting on the impact and improving environmental performance caused by the business output.

READ MORE: Why I'm Paying My Staff To Strike For The Climate

Simon Sheikh, CEO and founder of Future Super

We’ve made it our mission to make superannuation investment synonymous with climate action. We take pride in the fact that we won’t invest our members' super into coal, oil or gas, any banks that finance fossil fuels, or companies that provide known polluters with essential services. Instead, we invest in industries and companies that are helping make a better planet, like renewable energy companies, recycling organisations, resource conservation companies, green IT and sustainable transportation providers.

It doesn’t stop with our investments either. We carry out our mission in the day-to-day running of our offices, and are constantly looking at new ways to improve. As a registered B-Corp, we hold ourselves and are held accountable by the B-Corp community to use our business as a force for good -- to prove we can walk the walk just as well as we talk the talk.

READ MORE: 1200 Businesses Give Workers Time Off To Attend Climate Strike

Abigail Forsyth, Managing Director of KeepCup

Our approach has always been to design a strong and responsible supply chain network to reduce waste and energy consumption across our entire business. We use local manufacturers to ensure we invest in the community and in turn reduce the environmental cost of logistics. In 2016 we began production in the UK to reduce our transit footprint for our international clientele. The savings are not financial; they are environmental.

It’s not just transport we focus on -- our retail boxes are made from Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) certified cardboard, and our offices in both Australia and the UK are solar powered. We are of the mindset that the more people we take on the sustainability journey, the broader its impact.

READ MORE: Climate Change Making Parents Feel Guilty For Having Kids

Leigh Barnes, Chief Purpose Officer of Intrepid Travel

Our commitment to climate action started in 2005 when our co-founder Darrell Wade realised the significant amount his company was contributing to the planet’s carbon emissions. By 2010, we had become a completely carbon-neutral business, carbon-offsetting trips for all our travellers too. Knowing that our products can be carbon-intensive, we offset our carbon emissions by purchasing carbon credits associated with a range of renewable energy projects.

Across our global network of 42 offices, we have a strong focus on reducing carbon emissions and seeking less carbon-intensive alternatives where possible. We measure, avoid, reduce, and offset carbon-related usage and ‘green out’ our office spaces.

We’re always looking for ways to reduce the level of emissions generated and follow our Carbon Management Program diligently. As part of being climate-positive we will be setting Science Based Targets to reduce carbon emissions, including reduction of business travel. We believe that education on the issue has been key, especially in Australia.

READ MORE: 'Green Light' To Climate Strike: Victorian Public Servants Allowed To Walk Out

*****

The global climate strike is just the beginning. While the students have done an incredible job putting climate change on the national agenda, it’s us as business leaders who can have a meaningful impact right now. We don’t have to wait for the government.

By taking the first step, you will be sending a message to your employees, customers, shareholders and community that you care about their future as well as your own.